Fine art and Facebook friends: The effect of social media

In the past few years, social media websites have practically taken over the world. Their influence can be felt everywhere, from how people communicate with their friends and family, to professions such as journalism or professional sports. Perhaps one of the biggest effects of social media can be found in the art world.

From sharing photographs on Instagram to posting fan art on Tumblr, social media has revolutionized the way artists get the word out about their work. These websites and apps allow artists to create a large following in a short amount of time.

Drawing sophomore Ellie Craze has made social media work for her in a big way. She started out by posting her art on the blogging site, Tumblr. She then created a Facebook page to attract a bigger following. She has even opened an Etsy shop to sell her work.


Craze said one of the things she likes about social media is that “it gives artists the opportunity to gain at least a modest amount of popularity and sell art via online stores.” She credits her Tumblr followers for a lot of her success, especially for her own online sales.

Sue Norton-Scott, the publicity chair for the Tempe Artists Guild, has also taken notice of how social media has changed the art scene, particularly when it comes to how artists display their work.

“The Internet has allowed artists to reach audiences in ways that have not been accessible in the past,” Norton-Scott said. Showing online has become a popular alternative to working with galleries, according to Norton-Scott, as it is cheaper.

As a publicity chair, Norton-Scott uses the organization’s web outlets — a Facebook page, email list and website — to promote the Guild. She also issues press releases to discuss upcoming exhibits and other activities of the Guild.

Deborah Sussman Susser, a communications and media specialist for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, uses social media to share news and events at Herberger, share stories with students and find people to interview. She calls social media “a fantastic information gathering and sharing tool.”

Sussman Susser believes that this new technology has affected art in similar ways to show how it has affected other areas. It allows people to connect with others who have similar ideas and interests, she said.

So which social media platform is the best for artists? For Craze, she prefers Tumblr, as she says it “offers a ton of exposure to artists­­ and a great group of people who will support and advertise your art to their followers.”

However, as with anything, social media does have its downsides for artists. Those who work in a three-dimensional medium, such as sculptors, have a hard time using these programs to display their pieces, Norton-Scott said.

Sussman Susser calls the opportunity it gives artists to self-promote their work “a double-edged sword.”

“On the one hand, you're less reliant on galleries and dealers to get the word out,” Sussman Susser said. “On the other hand, you turn into a PR and marketing person for your online presence, and not everybody has the experience to do that.”

Craze also sees issues with social media’s newfound prominence in the art world. “Unfortunately, I feel that it's harder to create a big name for yourself in the art world ever since social media came into play,” Craze said. “There are so many people that put their art on the Internet, so now it takes a huge amount of popularity to be even slightly relevant.”

Overall, though, there is a positive outlook on the effect social media can have on artists, in not only promotion, but even creation.

“I'm sure the world of online art will continue to grow,” Craze said, “and I'm excited that it gives artists a place to display their art to people that may have never seen their work without social media.”

Norton-Scott believes artists will use technology in many creative ways, “such as being able to experience an art show via a virtual presence, or collaborating on a physical piece in real time with other artists from around the world.”

Artists and fans alike will be watching in the coming years to see how the art community continues to evolve and adapt to the communications force that is social media.

Reach this reporter at or follow her on Twitter @KaseyMcNerney

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